Truck drivers work diligently to transport the goods we need and want throughout the country.
The Bronx has five major industrial business zones that are home to manufacturing, construction, and transportation companies—to name a few. As truckers move goods in and out of the Bronx, they do not keep typical 9-to-5 schedules, and they often spend more than eight hours working each day.
Truckers commonly have demanding schedules and face pressure from their employers to meet pick up and delivery times, sometimes pushing best safety practices and safety regulations to the side. Federal regulations govern the number of hours truck drivers can drive each day and each week, but the long days and irregular work hours help contribute to driver fatigue.
If you’ve suffered injuries in a Bronx truck accident at the hands of a fatigued truck driver, New York law permits you to take legal action to recover compensation for damages related to the accident and your injuries. It’s best to contact an experienced bronx truck accident attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Until you can meet with a lawyer, we provide the following guide about truck driver fatigue.
Below we take a closer look at the dangers of truck driver fatigue, causes of truck driver fatigue, injuries people suffer when a fatigued truck driver causes an accident, and federal regulations put in place to prevent truck driver fatigue.
Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, truck driver fatigue causes between 30 and 40 percent of truck accidents across the United States. This is in large part because lack of sleep impairs drivers the same way that alcohol does.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency that regulates the trucking industry, has devoted significant resources to studying the relationship between sleep and driving. Their research shows that staying awake for 18 hours impairs the human body to the same extent as someone who has a 0.08 blood or breath alcohol concentration, twice the legal limit for operating a commercial vehicle.
Many truck drivers have long days that keep them awake for 18 hours regularly, causing serious driver fatigue and putting others on the road at risk for accident and injury. Some violate federal regulations, ensuring they are always drowsy behind the wheel. At other times, demanding schedules take a toll even when following hours of service regulations.
In either case, the dangers of truck driver fatigue include:
- Slowed reaction time to other vehicles, traffic control devices, and road hazards
- Impaired motor functions making it difficult to stay in one lane
- Inattentiveness and distraction
- Impaired judgment of time and space
- Impaired decision-making skills
- Several seconds of unconsciousness, referred to as micro-sleeping, in which a truck can travel at least the length of a football field or more while a driver is blacked out
Factors that Contribute to Trucker Fatigue
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatigued driving happens most often between 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. or in the late afternoon. Of course, trucker fatigue is the main consequence of truckers not getting enough rest. However, why don’t truckers get the sleep they need? Here are some specific factors that contribute to trucker fatigue.
Untreated Sleep Disorders
Truck drivers who suffer from untreated sleep disorders face drowsiness and fatigue behind the wheel. Two of the most common sleep disorders that contribute to truck driver fatigue are sleep apnea and insomnia. People with sleep apnea stop and start breathing multiple times each night. Sometimes apnea results from a blockage in the upper airways, and other times the brain does not send signals to breathe. Those who suffer from sleep apnea and haven’t been diagnosed or treated never get a good night’s sleep because they stop breathing multiple times, leaving them fatigued, groggy, and drowsy throughout the day.
Insomnia refers to general sleep issues such as the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. Truckers who suffer from insomnia do not get enough sleep or get poor quality sleep, resulting in fatigue. Chronic insomnia has a range of sources from stress, depression, poor sleep habits, and other behaviors.
Untreated Medical Conditions
Aside from sleep disorders, many other medical conditions can cause fatigue among truck drivers. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that about one out of five people suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, leading to dangerous traffic accidents, especially when a truck is involved.
- Head trauma
- Inflammatory illness or disease, such as Type 2 diabetes
- Genetic diseases
- Neurodegenerative diseases
Sometimes truck drivers know of their conditions and have received treatment. Other times, they are driving around with undiagnosed illness and disease that impacts their level of drowsiness or disease.
Each person reacts to medications differently, with some experiencing harsher side effects than others. Fatigue and sleepiness is a common side effect for many classes of prescription drugs. Some truckers take medications that could impact their alertness while driving.
- Muscle relaxants
- Some types of painkillers
- Cough medicines and suppressives
Very few truck drivers have a work schedule that falls into a traditional work schedule; most have non-traditional hours that sometimes include evening or night driving. Others have schedules that regularly change.
The inconsistent schedules make it hard for some drivers to get the rest they need, impacting alertness while driving. The biggest struggle with shift work and non-traditional schedules is that it goes against someone’s internal body clock ruled by their circadian rhythms.
Exposure to sunlight is a key factor for the body’s internal time clock. Circadian rhythms make it, so most adults are sleepy from about 12:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. and a little sleepy in the mid-afternoon. Truck drivers, especially those that drive overnight, have to fight their natural time clock to stay awake. Truckers who sleep during the day also have to fight their time clock.
Ultimately, truck drivers’ irregular schedules lead to continuous sleep deprivation, leading to long-term insomnia and chronic, daily fatigue.
Truck Parking Shortages
Truck drivers that go to and from businesses in the Bronx sometimes travel across multiple states. Some even go as far as the west coast and travel in sleeper semis. Truck drivers park at rest areas and truck stops to get the rest they need.
However, many spots for over-the-road truckers fill up quickly, especially near large urban centers. When truck drivers cannot find a spot to park for the night, they are forced to travel further than they would like, sometimes traveling further than is legal. Truck parking shortages keep drowsy truckers on the road longer than necessary, putting others at risk for accident and injury.
Federal Regulations that Combat Trucker Fatigue
Fatigued truck drivers have been causing accidents across the nation for decades. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) plays a large role in keeping roads safe for motorists in the Bronx and throughout the United States. They regulate truckers, trucking companies, and other players in the trucking industry by creating standards and rules.
The FMCSA also oversees safety and regulations for all commercial vehicles. The FMCSA’s major tool to fight trucker fatigue and associated accidents is the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations.
HOS regulations set forth strict guidelines about how long a trucker can drive and how long they must rest. Drivers who operate heavy trucks and semis must have a commercial drivers’ license (CDL), which requires they comply with HOS guidelines. Those who refuse to adhere to FMCSA regulations put others on the road at risk and break federal law.
The specific HOS requirements that truckers must follow include:
- Drivers can operate their trucks up to 11 hours in a day if they have had 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- Drivers cannot be on duty for more than 14 hours to get 11 hours of driving in for a day.
- Drivers must take a 30-minute break after 8 consecutive hours of driving.
- Drivers cannot drive more than 60 hours in 7 days.
- Drivers cannot drive more than 70 hours in 8 days.
- After drivers meet their 60-hour or 70-hour time limit, they must restart their clock with 34 hours off-duty.
Some Truckers Get Around the Rules by Running Hot
Running hot is an insider term for falsifying logbooks. Although this is a major crime, truckers who feel pressure from their schedule and their employers sometimes doctor logbook entries and keep driving past their federal daily or weekly limit. The FMCSA has curbed a great deal of this activity by mandating electronic logging devices (ELDs) for trucking companies and owners/operators under their authority.
The FMCSA instituted its ELD mandate beginning in December 2017. The decision did not go over well in the trucking industry because it decreased productivity for truck drivers, causing trucking companies to lose money. Opponents argue that driver attentiveness and alertness depend more on the time of day a trucker is operating their rig than the number of hours behind the wheel. As mentioned above, research shows otherwise.
Injuries in a Bronx Truck Accident Caused by Driver Fatigue
Those who fall victim to a fatigued truck driver face severe, life-threatening, and fatal injuries, for which they can take legal action against the trucker. Traffic accidents that involve at least one heavy truck are almost always more serious than car crashes.
A fully loaded semi-truck weighs at least 20 times more than the average passenger vehicle. When a fatigued trucker causes an accident, the massive weight of the truck creates a forceful impact that causes more severe injuries. Accidents that occur on the Cross Bronx Expressway or another highway are often worse because of higher speeds.
Common injuries that those involved in a drowsy truck driving accident might experience include:
Truck accident victims can suffer indirect brain injuries from the force of impact but might also suffer brain injuries from a direct blow to the head or penetrating head injury. Depending on the location of the injury within the brain, victims might suffer various long-term complications if they live through the injury.
Those who do not go into a coma or permanent vegetative state (PVS) potentially face:
- Difficulty with memory and cognitive functions like logical reasoning and understanding abstract ideas
- Loss of motor function
- Difficulty with hearing, vision, and other senses
- Numbness, tingling, and other painful or uncomfortable sensations
- Chronic headaches or migraines
- Anxiety, depression, and other emotional struggles
- Difficulty with communication and speech
- Behavioral changes especially increased aggression and difficulty with social inappropriateness
Neck and Back Injuries
The immense force of a truck accident causes bodies to contort in a wide range of unnatural positions, often doing serious damage to the spinal column. In the least severe cases, neck and back injuries consist of soft tissue injuries to muscles, ligaments, and tendons. With rest and mobilization, many accident victims fully recover from these types of injuries.
Unfortunately, when a fatigued driver causes a truck accident, the damage to the spinal column is far worse. Victims face fractured vertebrae, herniated discs, nerve damage, and spinal cord damage.
Accident victims fortunate enough to avoid paralyzation still face chronic pain and discomfort for life. Severe neck and back injuries often require one or more corrective surgeries involving surgical hardware such as plates, screws, and rods. In other cases, victims might need to have vertebrae fused because of slipped discs.
Even after surgery to help with the pain, back and neck injury victims often cope with continued discomfort. They must adhere to a rigorous pain management regimen to function in their day-to-day lives.
Truck accidents are more likely to lead to amputation than many other types of traffic accidents. The crash impact mangles passenger vehicles, sometimes pinning arms and legs under seats, under the steering column, or under the dash. When doctors cannot restore blood flow to a crushed limb, they must amputate. Amputees face physical pain and emotional trauma as they deal with their recovery and learn to use a prosthetic device.
Did a Fatigued Bronx Trucker Injure You?
If a truck driver injured you in the Bronx—whether fatigued or not—call a Bronx truck accident lawyer for help filing your claim and fighting for the compensation you need to pay your bills and move on with your life. It’s too much for most people to handle by themselves, especially when they’re injured. Since most Bronx truck accident lawyers work on contingency, you won’t pay anything if you don’t win compensation.